Combining funk, soul, reggae, folk, and indie, singer-songwriter Topher Mohr evokes summertime in the big city: vibrant, bustling but relaxed, multicultural, and sunny. A past collaborator with Mayer Hawthorne and Wu-Tang affiliate Brooklyn Zu, Mohr’s second album Phlowers plunders those vintage sounds and creates a genial little hybrid for himself, quixotic and warm, yet grounded as well, his flights of fancy countered by moments of realism.
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Formed in 2013, Austin band Wonderbitch has created a fascinating little hybrid for themselves, blending the sleek jazz rock of Steely Dan, the effervescent indie pop of Phoenix, along with a big, wonderfully garish helping of ‘80s R&B. All those ingredients are on full display on “Johanna”, a bright, sunny selection from their forthcoming self-titled EP, on which jazz, prog, and pop commingle like late ‘80s Genesis and Toto, but also with the contemporary appeal of present-day stars Haim.
Last year, HBO aired the eight-part documentary miniseries Sonic Highways, which features Foo Fighters traveling around the country, recording music in eight different cities as part of a grand “love letter to the history of American music”. The band also released a companion album of the same name, which contains the songs they wrote on their eight-city adventure.
Foo Fighters weren’t the only ones making music for Sonic Highways, however. Bryan Lee Brown, a friend of Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, wrote a score for the HBO miniseries. Brown was certainly up to the task, given his background in ambient music under the name Dark Brown. The soundtrack to Sonic Highways will see its proper release next week, but before then, you can stream the track “Many Branches” below.
As fun as the yearly “summer jams” can be, all too often their elated optimism can come off as more posture than positive. Is Pharrell really that happy? And, really, just how lucky did we all get during summer 2013?
Cooper, the debut full-length LP by Brisbane, Australia-born Kate Cooper, has an upbeat pace and mood to it that, on the surface, makes it seem like an ideal bedfellow for the “Get Luckys” and “Happys” on summer playlists. And, indeed, much of Cooper does fit that bill. What separates Cooper from the rest of that ilk, however, is that the tunes on her record—full of hooks and layered vocals that beg to be sung along with—actually feel genuine, rather than being peppy for peppy’s sake. The ethos of Cooper can be summed up in the chorus lyric to lead single “This Year”: “This year has been the best and the worst year”. For songs that capture both the highs and the lows of summer, Cooper is a sure-fire bet.
Although Portland, Oregon is a hotbed for numerous varietals of folk—most of which undoubtedly fall under that increasingly meaningless “indie” label—the city is not particularly known for its country music scene, even though the many farming towns not far from the city of sloe gin fizz are big on country culture. Yet even in a comparatively small music scene, some voices can stand out: enter Pete Krebs and Leslie Beia, who go by the name the Earnest Lovers when performing as a duo. Debuting at Oregon’s Pickathon Festival in 2014, the Earnest Lovers display a knack for all of country music’s requisite traits, as can be clearly heard on their debut EP, Sing Sad Songs. (If ever there was a title that captures country music’s general lyrical ethos, it’s that one.) Below you can stream the EP cut “San Andreas’ Fault”, which is chock full of harmonizing, both between Krebs and Beia’s vocals and the dueling electric/steel guitars, which are ripe with twang.